A Worcester Regional Transit Authority bus lays over in this file photo. Photo by Pi.1415926535 | CC BY-SA 4.0

The transit agencies that provide bus service to the hundreds of cities and towns across Massachusetts not covered by the MBTA would see a serious boost in funding under the state Senate’s plan to spend the first haul of funds from the new Millionaires Tax.

The Senate intends to spend 20 percent of its transportation surtax money on regional transit – including a $194 million investment for regional transit authorities. That encompasses a six-month fare-free pilot for RTAs, as the Senate aims to strengthen regional equity through the budget, Senate President Karen Spilka said during a briefing this week.

That compares to the House earmarking $70 million for regional transit funding and electrification grants, and Healey budgeting $25 million for regional transit and grants with surtax money.

“Funding RTAs is the right thing to do for each and every resident who relies upon them,” Spilka said. “This transformative and timely investment will bring us closer to ensuring that all residents of our commonwealth – regardless of where they live – have access to reliable, affordable and safe transportation,” Spilka said.

But the Senate Ways and Means Committee nixed Healey’s plan to spend $12.5 million of surtax money on Pittsfield and Palmer stations, meant to lay the groundwork for the long-anticipated East-West rail project that would connect Western and Eastern Massachusetts. The House didn’t set aside surtax money for East-West rail, either.

“We’ve heard again very loudly and clearly from my colleagues from throughout the state that our regional transit authorities need investments, as does the Metropolitan Bay Transit Authority,” Senate Ways and Means Chairman Michael Rodrigues said, as he explained the omission of East-West railing funding from the budget.

The Senate’s budget allocates $190 million in surtax money for MBTA capital investments divided equally across the subway and commuter rail, plus $5 million for a means-tested fare program. Other transportation items include $100 million for roads and bridges in supplemental Chapter 90 funding, with Rodrigues saying the infusion would be split evenly using the traditional Chapter 90 formula and a road mileage formula; $5 million for ferry services; $50 million for highway bridge preservation; and $50 million for federal matching funds as Massachusetts vies for Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grants.

Both Healey and the House had also proposed spending $5 million on means-tested fares at the MBTA. But the Senate’s capital investments for the MBTA fall $60 million short of what the House wants and $9 million more than Healey’s

Regional Transit Agencies Would Get Big Funding Boost from Senate Plan

by State House News Service time to read: 2 min